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Which universities have great teachers?

  1. Jan 28, 2012 #1

    I am the eleventh grade doing the IB program in Karachi, Pakistan. I was wondering which universities around the world have good Mathematics/Physics teachers. I am open to pretty much any country, although I am a Canadian Citizen. If anyone can tell me where I would get the best support and instruction to pursue my intellectual interests, I would be deeply grateful. (This is all for an undergraduate student)

    Thank You,

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 28, 2012 #2
    All universities have some good and some bad professors, it's almost hit-or-miss.
    I'm at a small Canadian university and can vouch for the size of my university greatly affecting teaching performance. I find that:

    - My professors are much more approachable.
    - There is a bigger emphasis (on the University's part) to demand excellence in teaching
    - My professors all know my name and say hello when I meet them in the halls
    - There are more opportunities for professor-student interaction
    - It's easy to drop in and get help during (or not during) office hours

    If I had to choose again, I would still prefer a smaller institution, it's personalized and I still get research opportunities/honors classes etc...
    But again, it's the the university itself that will fully determine the quality of the teaching, it's the professors. All universities have at least one really bad professor (probably); similarly, all universities probably have one really good one (at least, and maybe except some online universities?).
  4. Jan 28, 2012 #3
    I'd say in general a smaller university will most likely have better professors since they will be mostly teaching oriented rather than research. Like the previous poster said, at a smaller university the learning experience is a bit more personal. I know everyone in all my classes and the professors all know us. I'd say anything past weak generalizations will be just anecdotal. Every school has good and bad professors, not to mention one person's bad professor is another favorite.

    So rather than look at specific professors (unless you intend to work under a particular one), I'd say look more at the opportunities a particular university might give such as research, job placement, etc.
  5. Jan 29, 2012 #4
    Community colleges and inner city schools have the greatest teachers I've seen.

    One strange thing is that universities with excellent students can get away with bad teachers. If you have excellent students, then a bad teacher won't do much damage, but if you have mediocre students, then you need some excellent teaching skills to be able to do something with them.

    The other thing is that teaching itself requires different skills. I can think of one professor that happens to be a mediocre lecturer, but if you put him behind the scenes in a large lecture class, he is an administrative genius, and if you put him on a curriculum committee, he is stunningly amazing at fighting bureaucratic battles so that other teachers can do their jobs.

    Also teaching can sometimes be a team effort. The mediocre lecturer/stunning bureaucrat once team taught a class with someone with the exact opposite skills amazing lecturer/most disorganized person you've ever met, and the sum was greater than the parts.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
  6. Jan 29, 2012 #5
    If you are interested in the UK, check this guide:


    There might be a tendency to "small schools are better" here, but Birmingham and Manchester are big, and do well.

    The two universities I was unfortunate enough to be taught at are well down the list, so it might have some validity :)
  7. Jan 29, 2012 #6


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    It depends on what qualities makes a good teacher for you. At Harvard when I was an undergrad there, the teachers were mostly very hand off, no interaction at all with students, and no bending over backwards to dumb the material down. But they gave the best prepared and most exhilarating lectures I have ever heard. They were inspiring and authoritative.

    Does that sound like a good teacher to you? Or do you want someone who stops if he sees you are puzzled and goes back and repeats the same stuff over again for you?

    Do you want to be accommodated for your limitations, or challenged to surpass them?
  8. Jan 29, 2012 #7

    king vitamin

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    There's an incredibly crucial question to ask yourself too - what are your intellectual interests? If you're planning on going into a research-oriented field and/or you are interested in academia, you're going to want to go to a school with a lot of quality research. If you'll want to do research as an undergraduate, going to a school where your professors will be doing research and will be open to undergraduates working with them will really help out your education (not to mention give you a lot on your resume for grad school or jobs).
  9. Jan 30, 2012 #8
    At MIT, the quality of the lecturers were uneven with some teachers giving some of the best lectures I've ever heard, and the occasional one was so awful that there was a rumor that the professor was intentionally sabotaging their own lectures so that they didn't have to teach again. The quality of lectures at MIT is average. But that's not the reason to go there.

    All of the professors were first class researchers and you learned a ton of stuff working in undergraduate research. Also, the students were very sharp so that most of the things you learn, you end up learning from each other.

    Or some that just throws you in the water, while standing next to you with a life preserver, watching you trying to figure out how to swim.

    Or surpass the professor. One part of the MIT philosophy is that if the teacher teaches the student everything that the teacher knows, then the teacher has failed. The purpose of the institute is to set things up so that the student goes above and beyond what the teacher has taught.

    Part of the reason the educational system at MIT works the way that it did there is that if the professor drops you into the water, you may figure out something that they didn't think of.
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